“The Jerusalem Weather Forecast”

Some thoughts for Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 (Year C)

It has long been said that if you did not like the weather in Missouri, you should just wait a hour or so and it would change.  It very well may be that the weather in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago was like that.

In the homes of the religious and political authorities, the day beckoned bright and early.  The trouble maker from Nazareth was dead and buried in a tomb with guards around the entrance to ensure no one bother the body.  One more threat to their power and position had been dealt with; order and the rule of law had been restored and all was right with their world.  It was going to be a bright and sunny day.

But in other parts of Jerusalem, in the homes and places where the followers of Jesus were hiding, it appeared that the day was going to be dark and dreary.  Their leader, their teacher, their friend was dead and buried in a tomb with guards around the entrance .  Denied a proper burial two days before, the authorities were ensuring that Jesus would never get a proper burial.  And they, the followers of Jesus, were almost certain to be arrested, tried for the same charges as Jesus, and just as easily crucified.  This day was most definitely going to be dark and dreary.

But within one hour of sunrise, the forecast for the day and perhaps the future changed.  Fostered by the hope that accompanied the ministry of Jesus, some of the women went to the tomb, hoping to complete the burial process.  And then they discovered the empty tomb, they discovered that Jesus was not dead but had arisen.  A day that might have been dark and dreary was going to be bright and sunny as the Son had risen.

Today, the weather forecast might be very similar.  For the traditionalists in the church, the rule of law has been restored.  No longer is the church in chaos but in order.  No longer are there threats to the traditions of the church.  But the laws that have been passed are laws that restrict and deny; they are laws that are contrary to the very nature of Christ’s mission.

But, just as two thousand years ago, the Son rose and illuminated the world, so too does His Resurrection illuminate the world today.  The voice of the oppressed and the rejected cannot be silenced just because a set of laws has been passed that say the oppressed and rejected must be silent.

The law said that Jesus was dead but Jesus was alive; the law that said the body must die has been rejected by Christ.

The women who came to that Tomb that morning two thousand years ago could not be silenced, even the laws of society told them to be silent.

Those who followed Jesus then were considered outlaws, subject to the laws that would lead to crucifixion.  Today, just as then, the outlaws are telling the traditionalists that Christ defeated their attempts to silence Him and they could not be silenced.  Even as the traditionalists claim victory, we know that it is the outlaws who triumph.

Today, the Son is rising and no matter what clouds might be in the air, it will be a bright and shiny day.  For in the brightness of the Son, we see a newer and clearer world, a world in which all are welcome, that the oppressed are set free, the rejected welcomed, the sick healed, the hungry feed, and the homeless find shelter and sanctuary.

The statement of the Resurrection is that one can no longer hold onto the traditional view of life and death, of sin and freedom.  We are reminded that laws designed to restrict and oppress never work.  The rules and laws of God’s Kingdom may be hard to understand but we have been given the freedom to seek that understanding and not rely on the whims and nature of others.

On this day, no matter what it may be, this day will be bright and sunny because the Son has risen.

Would You Go? An Easter Meditation

A Meditation for 27 March 2016, Easter Sunday (Year C).

For me, the Easter story begins just before Sunday on Good Friday. It is the beginning of the Sabbath and Jesus has died. Jewish custom dictates that the dead need to be buried before sundown. Normally, it takes a few days to die, but even so, the Roman authorities preferred to keep the bodies of those who were crucified on the crosses for several days as a subtle reminder to the population of what happens when you provoke the authorities. Tradition says that Joseph of Arimethea asked for and received permission to take Jesus’ body down so that, in accordance with Jewish burial customs, He could be buried.

What would you have done if Joseph of Arimethea had asked you to go with him to take Jesus’ body off the cross and place Him in the the tomb? Would you have gone with him? Would you have climbed up a ladder and help take the bloodied and broken body of your friend, your master, your teacher off the cross?

Keep in mind that if you did this you would have become ritually unclean and not allowed in the Temple until you were declared “clean” by the religious authorities, the same authorities who conspired with the Roman political authorities to condemn and execute Jesus. Would you have been willing to go with Joseph if you knew that it meant you would become an outcast in your own society?

And what if the one of the women had come to you that Sunday morning and asked for your help in completing the task of burial? In the rush to meet the rules that stated Jesus had to be buried by sundown on Friday, the body was not properly prepared. So the women’s role in burial was not completed and could not be completed until Sunday morning, after the Sabbath was over.

That is why the women went to the tomb that Sunday morning, to complete the burial tasks that should have been done two days before. Would you have gone with the women that Sunday morning to help in the task, perhaps to roll away the stone that closed the tomb, lift the body or other myriad little tasks?

And just as the men would have been ritually unclean because of what they had done, so too would the women have been ritually unclean. Would you have been willing to undertake tasks that would have made you “unclean” and would have kept you out of society until authorities allowed you to come back in?

Would you have been willing to help your friends do the “normal” things when someone died, especially when the one you were burying had been labeled, for all purposes, a radical, a reactionary, and a criminal? Would you not have worried that your actions would mark you in the same way. Would you have gone even if it meant you might be arrested and executed as well?

What would you have gained by helping your friends, for doing the right thing?

When I was in the Boy Scouts back in 1964, our Scoutmaster, Major Smith, was trying to find ways to increase Boy Scout related activities. The idea that he came up with was the “Scout of the Year” competition. It was a competition based on the accumulation of points for doing a variety of things (hiking, camping, riding one’s bike, community service, that sort of thing) that Boy Scouts typically did.

Now, some of the points one earned came from the normal schedule of the troop – regular attendance at troop meetings, camping trips, and so forth. But other activities were to be done outside the framework of the regular schedule.

But you could not simply go for a five-mile hike or a ten-mile bike ride on your own; you had to have someone go with you to verify that the task had been completed. Steve, a member of the troop who lived near me, decided that he wanted to win that award. So he enlisted my help. So, every time he wanted to ride his bicycle out to the missile sites outside Denver, he would ask me to come along. As it happened, I didn’t particularly care for such competition and probably wouldn’t have done much more than what I would normally do. But Steve was a friend and he needed my help, so I helped him out.

Now, while this is going on, I and two others were studying for the God & Country award at my church (which happened to sponsor the troop I was in). Part of our class responsibility was to serve as acolytes Sunday mornings.

So when the “Scout of the Year” competition began and we began reporting our activities, I and the other member of the class who was in the same troop (the third individual belonged to a different troop) reported that we had been an acolyte and got our points.

In effect, I was getting points without even trying (if one can consider doing two services on a Sunday morning not trying). This worked pretty well for me until other guys in the troop realized what I was doing and they began to ask about being an acolyte as well. As a result, my own point total started to drop as others began actively serving as acolytes. But, when that first God & Country class ended, a new class began with those who had been serving as acolytes being the members.

When the year was over, my friend Steve received the “Scout of the Year” award. Interestingly enough, I finished something like 5th which I thought was pretty good since I really didn’t try to win. Yes, I know that if I had put a little more effort into the process, I might have finished higher. I had received most of my points for doing things that I normally did.

Consider this – When the competition began, I had already begun my own journey with Christ and it was that journey that I was more interested in completing. The points I received in the troop competition were secondary. But those who saw the work that I was doing and what I received wanted to share in that reward as well. And in serving as acolytes, they all in one way or another began the decision about what journey they wanted to take. And when the competition was over, they continued on the journey with Christ.

Yes, I would much rather have kept the points I had earned for doing two services a Sunday two out of every three weeks. But it was also easy sharing the duties.

Now, when the summer of 1965 came, my family moved from Colorado to Missouri and a new path on my own personal journey opened up. I do not know what happened to those who I journeyed with during 1964 and 1965 or those whose journey began after mine. But I know that because of what I was doing, others began their own journey with Christ.

What does this all have to do with Easter Sunday? We know that the tomb is empty, that Christ has risen. In one sense, we were there with Joseph of Arimethea and the others when Jesus’ body was taken off the cross and laid in the tomb. In one sense, we were there with the women on that First Easter Sunday morning when we discovered that the tomb was empty. We made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, even knowing that it could make us an outcast in society.

We know that He is very much alive in our hearts, our minds, and our lives. And what we know is that our lives are very much different because of this. Our lives have changed in a way that others will see.

And now, on Easter, we are asked to continue the journey, to go from this place into the world, to show by what we say and do that Christ is alive. Some may think that we must make that special effort, that extra step to do this. But all we are asked to do is lead this new life in Christ.

Some think that we must push our friends to accept Christ, that we must castigate them and tell them of all the bad and terrible things that will happen to them if they don’t accept Christ as their Savior. But that wasn’t what Jesus did when He walked the back roads of the Galilee.

Jesus never asked those He healed or gave comfort to who they were or if they were somehow qualified to accept His blessings and touch. He never said that they had to follow Him once they were healed, though many would do so. His was a life that restored hope and promise to the people. His was a life that lifted people out of despair and turmoil.

Does your life reflect that same opportunity? Do you, because Christ is in your life today, help to lift people out of despair and turmoil? In the end, all we are asked to do is live our lives in such a way that it is evident that Christ is a part of our life. That is all Christ ever wants us to do when we walk with Him and to love others as He has loved us.

On this day, when we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, we are asked if we are prepared to continue the journey that began when He asked the Twelve to follow Him. Are we prepared to go beyond the cross and the tomb, out into the world, to lead a life that shows that Christ is alive and that there is victory over sin and death, that there is hope in a world that doesn’t offer hope?

And so the question comes from a friend, from a teacher, from Christ, “Would you go with me?”

A Conversation Across The Ages

I am at Dover UMC this Easter morning.  (Location of church)  The service starts at 11 and you are welcome to attend.  The Scriptures for this Sunday were Acts 10: 34 – 43; 1 Corinthians 15: 19 – 26; and John 20: 1 – 19.

This message was a little different in that it was presented by Nathaniel Bartholomew and Sarah, the woman at the well.  Sarah’s parts are in italics; Nathaniel’s parts are in regular print.  My thanks to Kathleen Meyerson of the First UMC in Brewster for assisting in this presentation and service this morning.


This is a conversation across the ages. Though spoken by individuals who lived two thousand years ago, these are words spoken across time.

It is just before sunrise that first Easter morning. Outside Jerusalem a lone man sits under a fig tree. It is Nathaniel Bartholomew, one of the twelve disciples, and though we cannot see him clearly, it is clear that he has been crying. As we come closer, we hear him say,

What was I thinking three years ago? How could I have been so foolish as to think that He was the Messiah? Have I wasted these past three years? Why didn’t I just go to rabbinical school like I had planned?

Speaking to the congregation, Nathaniel says, “Two days ago, the Roman authorities, under the insistence of the High Priest and scribes, arrested my teacher and friend, Jesus. We, those called the disciples, believed in our hearts and minds that He was truly the Messiah. Because of what He taught us, what He said and what He did, there was no doubt that He was the Messiah, He was the Christ.”

But now He is dead and I am afraid that the religious and political authorities will be looking for us. Even with Jesus dead and in a guarded tomb, we are still a threat to them.

They are already calling us crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace. They have accused us of undermining their authority by saying that we needed to put God before kings and emperors. They have even started rumors that we will steal Jesus’ body from the tomb to make some obscure prophecy come true. No doubt, they will start some sort of rumor that has us destroying traditional family values, of turning child against parent and brother and sister against brother and sister.

I don’t know what they think we will do. They put armed guards in front of the stone and if those guards should fail, they will be severely punished. And no Roman soldier likes to be punished. How could we steal the body? We have no army; we have no weapons. We have nothing; we left everything, our friends, our families, our homes to follow Jesus.

As Nathaniel sits and stares out to the sunrise, a woman enters.

Excuse me, sir, but aren’t you one of the twelve that followed Jesus of Nazareth?

Yes, I am. You look familiar; do I know you?

I think you might. I am Sarah and I met your teacher when you all passed through Samaria. I had come to Jerusalem because I had heard that He was going to be here and I just had to thank Him for what He meant to me.

Oh, yes, I remember you. And I remember that day. But I am afraid that you are too late. Jesus was arrested three days ago and executed two days ago. You best not be seen with me. I fear that they will take you as one of his followers and we are not very popular right now.

But, sir, haven’t you heard? He didn’t die. The message is not dead. Don’t you remember that I was one of those who was hated and despised? Do you think that I would have sought him out this day if He hadn’t changed my life?

Sarah gets up from sitting by Nathaniel and speaks to the congregation, “Remember how needy I was, looking for that feeling of being loved but never being able to find it. I had had five husbands and was living with another man and yet all that managed to do was ostracize me from my own community.”

“Then I met this man, a Jew, the one you call Jesus. He spoke to me though I was a Samaritan woman and I had come to the well alone. It is customary that only family members could address an unaccompanied woman in a public place. But as we talked he acknowledged that I was a part of His family. He knew all about me and then he offered me the water of eternal life.”

“It was almost too much to take in. I didn’t dare believe that this could be the Messiah accepting “me”, this lowly Samaritan woman living in sin. The Lord was inviting me to be a part of His Holy Family for ever. I wanted to believe, but how could it be. I was too unsure of myself so I ran back to the village in order to get confirmation that this was really happening to me.”

“I told those friends that I had seen Jesus and then they told others and we all went back to Jesus, the Messiah, and He taught and preached for three days.”

“I now know who I truly am, a loved daughter of God. Nothing said or done could ever again separate me from the love of my Father.”

“Yes, they crucified Jesus. But He has risen and His Resurrection has prepared the way for all of us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. All of us, think about that. It’s as real today as it was when I met Jesus at the well.”

How many times did we watch and see how such a brief encounter with Jesus would change the life of someone? Even though it changed the lives of the disciples, it never occurred to them that they could or would now be charged with the same task.

In part that was because the disciples and the early followers saw society as others saw society. It was a society that sorted and separated people by an elaborate system of purity codes. These purity codes created no-trespassing zones of untouchability that had particular impact on the chronically ill, the disfigured or handicapped, on women, on foreigners and those of different ethnic groups and origins. Anyone with an unorthodox or questionable lifestyle was also on the wrong side of the boundary lines created by these codes.

Through these codes the religious and political authorities sought to control the minds and bodies of the people. It always seemed that many individuals were one step away from being driven from their home, declared an outcast or told that because of some obscure violation of the religious law, they would not enter heaven.

Crucifixion was a punishment, not just for the victim, but for all of society. It was a reminder of what would happen if one questioned political authority.

As long as one stayed within the boundaries, one was fine. But it was often difficult to tell where the boundaries were or even what the boundaries were.

But the Resurrection changed all of that. In a world that saw death as the final defeat, Christ defeated death. He let the authorities do their worst and, by the power of God’s love and truth, vanquished those who sought to defeat Him.

In defeating death, Christ unmasked the illusions of the powerful, exposed their lies and showed them for what they truly were then and are still today.

With the Resurrection, those who follow Christ do not live in fear; it is those who would have used fear as a weapon who now live in fear.

The Resurrection offers a new vision of the world. It is a vision that says God’s love and truth are more powerful than any fear can ever be.

The world today in 2010 is not that much different from the world of that First Easter. It is a world of increasing economic hardship and diminishing resources. It is a world divided by race, creed, lifestyle and economic status. It is a world where violence, both domestic and foreign, seems to increase every day.

It is a world in which the word Christian has become synonymous with hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, and conspicuous consumption. There are those today who will say that the Resurrection never occurred or that is was a hoax or a conspiracy.

It is a world where an individual can feel powerless and helpless. Many times, they turn to those who offer fear, who say that the answer is found in hatred and violence, in powerful armies and fences and walls around the countries, in keeping those not like us outside and keeping God for themselves. But it is the same fear that the religious and political authorities used to kill Christ.

We have felt every emotion that the disciples and first followers felt that First Easter. We have felt the joy of Palm Sunday, the confusion and shock of Maundy Thursday, and the sorrow of Good Friday. We have felt that fear of Peter when he denied Christ three times. We have been uncertain about the presence of Christ in our lives, just as Thomas would express his own uncertainty. And people today wonder, just as so many wondered two thousand years ago, if any good could ever come out of Nazareth.

But the Resurrection changed all that; it gave Light to a world of darkness. In this New Light, the gloom would be driven away and bring a new sense of hope to the disciples and the early church.

No longer would they cower in fear. Instead they would hear the words of Christ and go out into the world.

First Mary Magdalene and then Peter and John would tell us that the tomb was empty. Later that day, the First Easter, as we gathered together, Jesus would appear to us. Seeing Him that night would only confirm what the thoughts in our mind told us were true.

And Jesus would tell us to go and tell others. We didn’t have a story written down then but we didn’t need one. It was a story that we saw take place; it was a story that we lived and which lived in our hearts and our minds.

We knew that Christ was alive and that is and was the story that we would tell from that day on. It is the story that we bring to you today.

It is a story of hope instead of fear. It is a story that fear cannot stop; it is a story that can stop fear; it is a story of love and inclusion rather than hatred and exclusion. It is a story that brings people into the kingdom, not prevent them from entering.

We live in a world that will not always accept this story. They want to see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and the wound in his side. But to demand proof that cannot be supplied is to ask for a God that works in a world of fear and earthly power, in which salvation is found in ritual and law.

With the Resurrection comes a new life, in and with Christ, not of Christ. It is a life lived as proof, not merely spoken of as something that happened two thousand years ago.

This was a conversation that began two thousand years ago It is a conversation that continues to this day and will continue as long as there are believers to tell the story. It begins today as it began two thousand years ago.


So Where Is He?

This is the message that I gave at Tompkins Corners UMC on Easter Sunday,  11 April 2004.  The Scriptures for this Sunday are Acts 10: 34 – 43, 1 Corinthians 15: 19 – 26, and John 20: 1 – 18.


This day on the liturgical calendar should be bright and sunny. Even if it is cold, damp, and dreary, there should still be brightness in the area, a sense of joy and happiness. For that is what Easter represents.

But the news this morning probably contained stories about Americans being killed in Iraq and continued violence between Palestinians and Israelis in Israel. And the news at home isn’t any better. There may have been a fire in the suburbs and if no one was injured, at least one family was now without a place to stay. In some city, there may have been an attack on a homeless person or a homeless person may have attacked someone just walking by. And I am sure that at least one professional sport star did something that brings into question his or her motivation and desire. Throughout today, as we speak of the Easter resurrection, politicians will find a way to question the motives of some mid-level bureaucrat and tell us what evil and vile things their opponent will inflect on this country should they be elected.

Now I began thinking about these paragraphs on Tuesday afternoon so I had no way of knowing if it will be true. But I take the chance that the usual news that we start our day with, and it always seems to be bad news, will be the same type of news that starts our day this day. And there will be those, who against the background of Easter and our celebration, will be asking how there can be a God of peace when there is violence in this world? How can there be a God that loves us when there are homeless people living in the streets? How can there be a God that allows us to kill others randomly or deliberately? These people will say that there cannot be a God when there are preachers in this country who preach division and exclusion.

And there are those who say that if there is a God, He would not allow this violence to reign in this world. If there were a God, He would not allow people to go hungry or homeless; there would be no divisions.

But if there is no God, then there cannot be a Son whose resurrection is the central point of this day. If there is no God, then He could not have sent His Son to save us. If there is no God, then this day has no meaning and this church has no reason for being here.

And God is so omnipotent that He can destroy this world or make it right in one swift action of his mighty sword, so there is no reason to send His Son to save us. There is no reason for His Son to die on the cross, so that our deaths would not be in vain. And if there is no reason for His Son to die on the cross, then there is no reason for this church to be here.

But God does not rule this world in an omnipotent manner nor does He ignore this world. We were put on this earth to take care of it, to be its stewards. And, despite any misgivings God may have had in doing so, He gave us the concept of free will. He gave us the ability to choose, to make decisions. And with that ability to choose, He gave us the responsibility to accept the results of our actions.

If there are homeless or hungry people in this world, it is our responsibility to see that they are fed and clothed. If there is violence in this world, it is our responsibility to see that violence is stopped, not with more violence but by removing the causes of violence. If there is division in this world, it behooves us to remove the reasons for division.

Mary came to the tomb that Sunday morning and asked where was Jesus? There are those today who ask the same question. The question is asked because they cannot find Him in the world. But they are not looking.

The problem for many is that they see Jesus in terms of this world. This is a world in which it is possible for the masses to share in the creative life in this world. It is possible for all to eat enough to lead a truly human life, and to learn enough to free their life from imprisonment in the immediate moment so that they can become responsible members of the human race and free participants in history. These changes bring about changes in the old religions, in the old metaphysical systems, and to the old theologies. The changes take mankind away from God and then mankind wonders where God is.

In a world of change the one thing that remains constant is Jesus Christ. Christ is the one who is the same yesterday, today, and not forever (and not the church). Christ is the living one. In a world that changes and brings change the one constant is Christ. He is the same not because He is untouched by our time, but because He is always and unchangeably involved in the events of our time. It is Christ who emptied Himself of all claims to timelessness and freely delivered Himself up for us all – opening Himself to our needs – even though that openness led to His death on the cross. It is He who in His supreme openness to the needs of the world took upon Himself the form of a servant. He was the one who broke free from the ghetto of religious law and cultic regularity in which the faith of the time was so largely imprisoned, in order to be free for the needs of the outcast, the hopeless, the helpless.

And it was He who warned those whom He called to share His mission to the world that they too must be free for the unexpected need by the roadside. And that true greatness is in the willingness to be the servant of all.

But these changes also show us the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind. Do we not see in the new mobility of life the pressure of God breaking down the walls of race, nationality, and caste? Do we not see in the fearful resistance to these movements demons to be exorcised in the name of Christ? Do we not see in the costly struggle to overcome these demons of prejudice and fear, the need to witness to the costly love of the cross? Do we not see in the rising freedom of the multitudes, a movement towards the fulfillment of God’s promise and commandment to man that he will subdue the earth? Do we not see in the breaking of the age-long chains of oppression, a movement toward the promise that mankind shall grow up into one new man in Christ – into a unity in which all the dividing walls are at last broken down? Do we not see in the resistance – even the terror – that accompanies these changes, witnessing in the world and life to the true hope revealed in Christ and sharing in the costly struggle for the victory of these hopes? (Material in the preceding paragraphs adapted from Faith in a Secular Age by Colin Williams)

And it translates into what Peter was saying to the crowd that day described in Acts, "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one." (From Acts 10: 42)  People are not likely to see God or find God if we do not show Him to them.

Even Jesus commanded us

Go and tell what you have seen and heard – the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up; the poor have good news preached to them (From Luke 7:22)

Mary came to the tomb seeking Jesus. Just as she did we find the tomb empty. The Brazilian theologian Ivone Gebara feels that the empty tomb itself is the key to both our understanding the resurrection and to living the resurrection in our lives. She writes that the empty tomb "returns us to the manger, the place of the child, the place of the rebirth of hope. The empty tomb returns us to ourselves, women and men capable of giving birth and rebirth to the divine, the essence of our own flesh.

Like his birth, Jesus’ resurrection is an event that is ultimately beyond the confines of our ability to understand or reason. As mystery, the only way we can hope to understand the resurrection is to live it. The empty tomb is thus not an ending to the story but a beginning, an invitation to each us. (From "Living the Word" by Michaela Bruzzese, Sojourners, April 2004.)

We are asked to take the resurrection beyond being a historical event; we are asked to make the resurrection part of our lives. We do this by witnessing to Christ’s redeeming work through our thoughts, our words, and our deeds.

We do this through fellowship with each other, in an open community as Peter said, "without impartiality."

We do this through celebration. We come to the table this morning celebrating God’s redeeming work in Christ that allows us to see the continuing presence of Christ in today’s world.

Mary did not find Christ in the empty tomb because He was not there. He was standing right there in front of her. There are people who wonder where Christ is in this world. They know that the tomb is empty and they wonder where he could be. The celebration of today is in the fact that Christ is alive today and we are able to not only answer the question of that morning but show it as well.

"He Lives"

That Morning

This was the message for the Easter Sunrise Service at Tompkins Corners UMC on 11 April 2004 – I used Deuteronomy 34: 1 – 4 and Mark 16: 1 – 8 as the Scriptures.

I don’t think that First Easter morning was any different from any other morning. At least for the disciples it wasn’t; of course, the only difference that morning was that Jesus was dead and the men in the group were hiding in fear of their lives. Peter surely must have been alone with his thoughts that morning, knowing that three days before he had denied Christ, not once but three times. And this denial was made even worse because Christ had said that he would do it.

So Peter must have really been alone that morning, fearful that he would be arrested and angry at least with himself that he had denied the man whom he had followed for three years.

The women who had followed Christ through His entire ministry knew what they had to do. It had been late on Friday when Christ had died and his body had not been properly prepared for burial. There was nothing they could do on Saturday so it was imperative that they get to the tomb. Then they would have to figure out some way to roll back the stone in front of the tomb and convince any guards or security personal there that they meant no harm and only wanted to do what needed to be. So it was a Sunday morning just like any other Sunday morning, except that Christ had died.

And that made all the difference; because, when the women got to the tomb, the tomb was empty. And all the rules, all the expectations for the world changed in that brief moment. Because the tomb was empty and Christ had risen from the dead. Over the next few days, Christ is going to appear to all the disciples, in settings that defy understanding or reason. In just a few days, He is going to remove all the doubt that anyone had concerning the resurrection.

So the day was not like any other day, nor has any day since that day been like those before it. Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s triumph over death tells us that there is more to life than the normal expectations. And the rules and expectations that governed life until that day no longer apply.

We start this morning knowing that Christ is alive, that the tomb is empty and that death no longer triumphs over life. We start this day knowing that the rules have changed and that things long sought impossible can be accomplished. Christ’s resurrection tells us that there is new life, that there is new hope in each day.

That morning started off like countless mornings before it but it did not end like the days before. A new life began that day some two thousand years ago and we are here this morning celebrating Christ’s resurrection because of what happened that morning.

What Tomorrow Brings

I don’t know if this is historically or theologically accurate but this is how I have envisioned the first Easter Sunday.

No matter what the weather really was like, it was a dark, cold, and gloomy day for the disciples, followers, and family of Jesus. Having betrayed Jesus to the authorities and then being rejected by the same authorities, Judas Iscariot committed suicide and was now buried in a field as an outcast of both friend and foe alike.

It was just a matter of time before the authorities would start looking for the other eleven disciples. Having arrested and executed Jesus, it would be quite easy to do this.

Peter was in hiding from both his friends and those who had arrested Jesus. Fearful for his own life because of what they had done to Jesus, he did not think that he could find comfort and solace with those with whom he had spent the last three years. Having proudly proclaimed that Jesus was the Savior and having said that he would never deny Christ, he had done exactly that on the night of Christ’s arrest and ultimate execution. And he had not denied him once but three times. How could he ever face his friends or his family again?

The other disciples were also fearful for the life. Their leader, their teacher was gone and they would be the next to be arrested and executed as the authorities purged their little group.

It is hard to say how the women of the group reacted. The authorities, locked in their old ways, could never imagine that women would have or could have been treated as equals in the eyes of the Lord. But the women, no matter whether it was in the eyes of society or in the eyes of the God, still had their responsibilities of taking care of the body of Jesus.

The execution of Jesus had taken place at really the wrong time, so the body was taken from the cross and put into the tomb before it had been prepared. Now the women, in their grief and anguish had to finish the task that was theirs and theirs alone.

So on that first Easter morning, among the twelve and the other disciples, it was a dark, gloomy, morning. No matter where they were, they saw no future in the coming weeks. All the successes, all the joys, and all the wonders that they had seen and been a part of for the past three years were gone in an instant. They were lost in time because the religious authorities of Israel could not accept the idea that God would send His son and seek to bring hope to the world and challenge them to do the word of God. In a blatant abuse of power, the religious authorities put to death a man who challenged the status quo and brought hope to mankind.

And then the disciples heard that the women could not find the body. Apparently the body of Jesus had been stolen from the tomb, perhaps by the very same authorities who had put him to death. They had stolen the body to prevent the disciples and the people that would be known as “The Way” from claiming some sort of miraculous intercession by God. The authorities had stolen the body to drive another nail into the heart of the movement.

But then the word came. The women had seen Jesus and HE was not dead! And suddenly, all the words and the teaching that they had heard over the past three years began to make sense. All the words that Jesus had spoken about dying and being raised from the dead after three days were not just the words of a prophet but the words of the true Christ, the true Messiah.

And now a day that was gloomy, dark, and cold became radiant, warm, and the light was brighter than ever before. Christ had been resurrected and had conquered death. There was hope; there was a promise. The movement would not end but would grow because people would tell others about what they had seen and what they had did and how people had been healed of all sorts of illnesses. The words of Christ were true.

Today, in 2007, we are faced with many of the same thoughts that the early disciples faced. We hear that the tomb of Jesus had been discovered. We hear that Judas was not the betrayer of Jesus but rather a co-conspirator with Jesus to fake his death. Each Easter, someone else comes up with a new theory that will ultimately discredit the meaning of Easter.

But each theory is more complicated than the ones before. The rule in forming theories is to simplify, not complicate. And complicated theories don’t match the simple statement that Christ died, Christ was buried, and Christ has risen from the dead.

We are like the early disciples. The early disciples had seen the death of Christ on the cross that first Good Friday; they had seen His body taken away; and they had seen the evidence of the Resurrection, both in terms of the empty tomb and in terms of Christ Himself. They told others and they showed by their own beliefs, their own thoughts, and their own actions that Christ was alive and present in each one of them. Each year, others came to know what the early disciples knew because the early disciples had told the stories and what they saw. We tell the stories, not because we have seen what happened but rather because we have come to know in our hearts that it is true.

We have come to know in our hearts that there is a God and He cares for us as a loving Father. We know in our hearts that the Resurrection story is true and that Christ lives. We know this is true because we have felt the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and we have seen it work in others.

We are the ones who must pass the legacy of the Resurrection story to the next generation. We do not do it by brow-beating others but by simply telling what the story is. We do not do it by forcing belief but by showing that Christ is alive in everything we say and do. We are the representatives of the disciples; we are the ones who have inherited the story. We are the ones who must pass on the story.

Tomorrow brings another day, another week. Tomorrow bring another chance to tell the story. Tomorrow brings another chance to show that Christ is alive and that there is hope in this world. Tomorrow brings one more opportunity; shall we use it?